At the heart of Shoot Them Down is a pretty good song. It has a verse, and then it has a bridge, and then it has a chorus, like all good Adele songs. It has many parts actually, most of which work well. It’s catchy without being too cheesy. In particular, the arrangement is effective. This is the first thing to improve in my music. Given my incompetent jack of all trades approach, I gradually learned how to place simple parts together to make a whole that sounded ok, whilst the individual instruments continued to be performed to a sort of primary school ‘good effort’ level. You may notice some artificial brass sounds. I liked them a lot. They made me feel like a ‘composer’. The 3rd verse stabs have always been my favourite bit.
It’s early 2009, I’m 17, and, to a certain extent, we’re out of the woods. Songs will now generally offer at least one thing to make the 4 minutes worth your while – a small fresh leaf of basil on a plain dish of under or over-cooked pasta. If the lyrics don’t make sense, there will usually be a reason for that: ‘I was under the influence of dadaism that day’, or ‘I couldn’t be bothered’. Some mistakes will have been corrected before the song was packaged and posted. Others won’t have been, sure. And gradually, imperceptibly, my singing voice is going to improve, from the unthinkable lows of Hyper, to the relative highs of Knowing How To Use Your Voice In A Track.
So, I measure my life out in girlfriends. This is strange, I know, but a combination of developing a reputation for being a Relationship Person (always vehemently denied, I would counter that I just happened to be with people I actually liked), and historical quirks, meant that it just seemed right to create mental memory slots labelled by relationship. Historical quirk-wise, it so happened that all my early relationships were between 1 and 2 years long, at an age where quite a lot happens in that amount of time. The first lasted from the age of 13 to 15, the early teenage anxious/defiant phase. Then there was a neat 15-16 one, covering GCSEs, and the advent of drunkenness. And then another lasted the whole of 6th form, ages 16-19 – the growing-up-a-little-bit era. This categorisation sounds extremely unemotional. It doesn’t feel like that for me. Anyway, Shoot Them Down is the first song from that last phase – The 3rd Girlfriend. It isn’t really about her (‘I used to know a girl’ is the first clue – we were in the early days of our relationship), but there are references. The beginning of our romance included a lot of me waiting with an undignified level of keenness for her to text, and then trekking across London to see her at 2am. She would normally be with her friends, people I knew a bit, but not enough to protect me from the intensely hostile atmosphere they created. (This was all a front of course, what wasn’t in those days? They were pretty much all fun and nice people, and only a little bit criminal). I’m sure I didn’t help with my passively judgmental face and incessant sarcasm. So maybe one day I was feeling annoyed, perhaps she hadn’t texted, or maybe I’d just had a shit time pretending to be 20-30% cooler than I was for hours the night before. And so I wrote this song, imagining her to be a pretender just like me. Just a sly reference, nothing more. But I was clearly suffering from bitterness that day. Useful for writing songs, it seems.